The Shock Of The Swap

Rugby Union - Sean Lineen - Scotstoun Stadium.

Yesterday it was broken by Ian Morrison of the Scotland on Sunday that there was to be a reshuffle of positions with Glasgow Warriors coach Sean Lineen taking up a newly created position within the SRU and coaching the Scotland U20s while Scotland’s beleaguered attack coach, Gregor Townsend, would move in to become Glasgow Warriors head coach.

This sent shock waves through Scottish rugby. It is not the first time those within the game have been blindsided by stories of enforced moves, but this news was sudden. Communication has been frantic since then. Everyone knows the timing was bad.

Before this, a few months ago, it was made public that Scotland defence coach Graham Steadman was to be released after the 6 Nations and that Townsend’s deal was due to be up, too. With this news out Andy Robinson was forced to announce that someone new was to come in as defence coach alongside the incumbent Scott Johnson.

Yesterday it came out that Lineen was informed he would be moved and now has to become the first ever ‘head of player acquisitions’ within the SRU. He has made no secret that the news was simply dropped on him.

It is tough for Lineen because he has family settled in Scotland and is contracted to the SRU. When Rob Moffat was bumped out at Edinburgh he was offered a ‘new’ role which he duly turned down and walked away. Lineen isn’t the kind of guy to do that, clearly, and his stoic statement said a lot about his integrity.

“A new opportunity has arisen which I am very excited about. I am very passionate about Scottish rugby and having been involved in the professional arena both with Scotland and with Glasgow Warriors for nearly a decade, I know it’s a continual challenge to stay at the top table.

“The challenge of identifying and developing talent to take Scottish rugby forward is one that massively appeals to me. Having seen how players like Richie Gray, Duncan Weir and Stuart Hogg have exploded onto the scene from the Warriors gives myself and the other coaches and staff at the club a great deal of satisfaction and pride as this is a major part of our job.

“I leave Glasgow Warriors with a heavy heart as it has been a big part of my life, but know that the squad put together for next season is the strongest yet and I am handing over the reins with the club in a very healthy state.”

It must feel bizarre handing over a project he has overseen for some time. Townsend now has a lot to do. He should certainly be given every opportunity to prove himself, but many are left scratching their heads wondering why Lineen has been shunted sideways and Townsend effectively promoted.

Of course in terms of youth development having Sean Lineen who has a good international playing record and has coached in the Heineken Cup and the Pro12, making one play-off and bearing down on another, in charge of the U20s and the development of project players can only be good. A lot of kids will benefit from his regular input.

However, what this says about the scenario is that decisions are made hurriedly and then the people involved are informed after.

Mark Dodson is said to be rather embarrassed by the whole affair. A press conference went ahead today for the assembled journalists and some tried to get to the bottom of things. However, later in the day it is alleged that Lineen had a more important discussion as he met his entire staff. Everything was apparently talked over. By some accounts he looked rather shocked and understandably tried to put a brave face on it. I was not there but according to sources things had an air of the apologetic about them.

Despite there being reports that some of the players are perturbed  about the situation there has been a concerted effort to be positive about Townsend’s appointment. There has to be. This being said, though, it must also be pointed out that Lineen is not the only person being moved aside. Gary Mercer, Glasgow’s robust defence coach who must take many plaudits for how Glasgow have played this season, is facing a decision over a new role. This is the case because Matt Taylor of the Queensland Reds is to be Scotland’s new defence coach as well as doing work with the Warriors.

Hopefully Mercer is accommodated within the SRU, and Lineen will understandably feel it necessary to apologise to his colleague, but it must be said that at this point fans will want assurances that the turmoil is to stop soon. Whilst Scotland are losing it cannot help that there is uncertainty behind the scenes as well.

Glasgow are trying to ensure they stay in the race for the Pro12 playoffs.

Dundonian Alan has played rugby all over the world for various teams including Dundee High School, Heriot's and the Scottish Club International. Now writing from London he covers all issues international and unreported.

17 responses to this article

  1. Standoffalot said:

    As a season ticket holder at Glasgow I am quite simply disgusted by this news. I could almost see the logic if it was a tried and tested coach coming in, but Gregor Townsend? Scotland’s attack has been awesome during his tenure hasn’t it? I apologise for the negativity and sounding so bitter, but I really can’t see any positives here. Lineen has done a stand up job at Glasgow with not a lot to work with. So just as we move to the impressive Scotstoun stadium, crowds are up, 4th in the Pro12 and new players set to arrive, he gets sacked. Nice one SRU. Raging. At this moment in time I’m deliberating over renewing my season ticket. Rant over.

  2. ClydeTheGlide said:

    Having been a season ticket holder since the formation of Glasgow Rugby, I am seriously questioning whether to renew for next season on the back of this announcement. Only the SRU could have dreamt this up! So if, and I know it’s a big if, Glasgow win the Pro12 at the end of the season, the reward for the successful head coach is a demotion! And the reward for the National Attack coach with, as seems likely, a wooden spoon and the worst run of results in recent history is a promotion! You really could not make this up!!! How bad does it have to get at the SRU before they will fire somebody! Blokes like Craig Chalmers must wonder what they have to do to get a chance. Lose Craig, and as often as possible! You’ll be a shoe-in in no time! Thanks Sean and Gary, may I wish you every success in the future. You never know, you might be asked back sooner than you think!!!

  3. Glasgow_Girl said:

    I get your point about not buying a season ticket next year but I will still be buying mine, imo it’s not fair to punish the players for something the SRU have done, they were probably just as shocked as we were at the news and they’ll need all the support they can get.

  4. Dodge said:

    Simply baffling.
    Why ‘remove’ an experienced coach who appears to be taking a limited squad (in terms of our rivals) towards the top end of the table and ‘replace’ him with an inexperienced, publically divisive figure? It really does ‘reek’ this one.
    Can anyone anywhere shed a bit of insider info on the rationale behind this decision? Why the cloak and dagger approach? Would it have anything to do with a certain Glasgow club coach stepping down, did he have wind of this?
    Personally, I will be fair to Townsend and give him 2 seasons to shape the team before I pass judgement, but I can’t help but feel things are going to go backward, which after all the efforts both on and off the field, is disappointing.
    Also, any thoughts on whether this would impact on Beattie & Barclay’s decision to remain or will this seal their exit?

  5. bmg99 said:

    To play devils advocate for a moment, I wonder if there would be the same anger and vexation over this decision if it was Andy Robinson not Townsend who was taking over at Glasgow? As the man in charge of the Scotland team he’s the one who has to take reasonability for our results, for if AR does not have a view on how we should be playing the game in attack then you’ve got to question what he’s there for. So our poor attack is not all Gregors fault.

    That leaves the issue of Gregor’s lack of experience from which there is no getting away from. Let’s hope that he listens to Shade and that they and Taylor work well together. Under other circumstances, and timed differently, if the SRU were to announce that the assistant coach of Super XV winners the Reds was coming to Glasgow to be part of the set up it would sound like good news.

    Again, trying to be positive, at least Gregor knows his way to Scotsoun and Firhill. I mean things could be worse they could have appointed Andy Nicol, but they would have to give him a map to find Glasgow!

    While I’m flummoxed by the whole thing I think we (that is the Glasgow fans) have to be careful about saying to the SRU “hands off the Warriors”. We’ve hardly been complaining at their interference in making the budget available to try and keep big Richie and then providing monies to allow us to re-sign the likes of Hogg and bring in some quality players. There are some people trying to stir things up in the news papers, saying Lineen has been sacked – he presently works for the SRU and he will continue to work for the SRU, he has not been sacked, although that may be how it feels both to him and the fans. The journalist concerned hardly has a track recored in being very positive about the Scottish pro teams and more often than not calls there existence into question. So I for one will not be giving Mr F’s agenda (for he seems to have one) any fuel. Invented role or not, the SRU have created a position for SL and it could be argued that this follows the logic of trying to keep Scottish talent in Scotland.

    And here’s the rub – while we’re talking agenda’s – agree or disagree with the decision, part of the problem has been the timing. There’s genuine anger at the timing of this and the worry that these off field events will undermine attempts to progress in the Pro 12. The timing does not seem to have been of the SRU’s choice. So who leaked this, who gave Mr M at the Hootsman the story? Was it a certain rotund and disgruntled coach who seems to have lost his position with the u20′s in all this? I for one would like him to state, “yes I leaked this, or no I did not leak it”.

  6. Kev said:

    What’s done is done. The positive must be that GT will be able to work with Cusiter, Weir, Morrison, Hogg, Lamont etc on a daily basis. I’m sure like Bradley has done at Edinburgh this will have a good long term benefit.

    • standoffalot said:

      Out of curiousity, on what basis are you thinking Townsend will have a similar effect to Bradley? Bradley at least had extensive previous coaching experience with Connacht. Plus given Scotland’s paucity in attack, I fail to see Townsend getting to work with these players on a daily basis as a positive, what happens if their development goes backwards as a result?

    • Kev said:

      Townsend has coaching experience at Test level. Lineen and Bradley don’t! I think it’ll be very positive

    • standoffalot said:

      I really hope to God you’re right. Surely there has to be an order of progression ie clubs to pro teams to international level. Being an international attack coach doesn’t necessarily make you cut out to be a good coach in the Pro12. But I admire your positivity, I really wish I, and every other Glasgow fan I’ve spoke to could share it.

  7. Angus said:

    Where would you consider the National Under 20s side in the hierarchy of coaching?

    The Under 20 world cup is huge to me and to everyone down under and the majority of the players for Aus and NZ end up with pro contracts and a lot become full internationals

    Is this above or below an Edinburgh/Glasgow team head coaching position?

    An Edinburgh/Glasgow season is full time and long but Under 20s is also about representing Scotland on the national stage at what is effectively the stepping stone below full International rugby

    Which is / should be seen as more of a stepping stone / transition / career path for a developing coach on their way to a full international gig?

    U20 > Edinburgh/Glasgow > Scotland or

    Edinburgh/Glasgow > U20 > Scotland

    OT but to follow on a topic some time ago that asked the question about coaching career paths for internationals and should they go via club or straight into pro sides or even Scotland I pose the question:

    Would you give a recently retired international, no matter how good they were, a whistle and ask them to referee a 6 nations game as their first position or would you ask them to start with club games to find their feet and see if refereeing was right for them?

  8. northanlite said:

    The only job Lineen should have left for is the Scotland one.

    An awful decision from the old boys network that Sean Lineen clearly does not fit in to.

    It is a damn shame because after the rebuilding process of the 2010/11 season there are signs that, even allowing for players leaving this summer, a formidable squad was beginning to take shape.

    What a pity Mr Lineen will not be able to see it to fruition. He did a terrific job with scant resources and I only hope the players will reward him with a run to the play offs.

  9. Angus said:

    When Sean is ready to start looking for Scottish qualified players overseas he could do worse than cast his eyes over Brendan McKibbin (9) who tallied one try, 2 conversions and 4 penalties for the Waratahs v Sharks at the weekend ;)

    • dropped not retired! said:

      Why would Sean have to cast his eye abroad to find Scottish Qualified players?

      There is a huge pool of players that need looked at on these shores before anyone goes abroad to see what is out there. First up we need props, props that can at least hold their own in the set piece. We also need a leader on the pitch, someone with the respect of the coaches and the players, we don’t seem to have a “General” when we take to the pitch.

      We need to have a conveyor belt of both coaches and players that can step up to and from the “Pro” team ranks once that is established we may see some positive steps on the pitch.

    • Andy K said:

      I thought Scott Johnson’s job was to look at overseas Scots Qualified players??

      I love the whole “We haven’t scored any tries so its Townsends fault” brigade. It may well be a contributary factor (which has now been removed form the international set up) but by no means is it as black and white as this.

      If I was Townsend, looking at the selection pool he has had to work with in Scotlands back division over the past few years I’d be quoting the one about only being able to urinate with the appedgage god gave you!!!

    • Andy K said:

      Hmmm…spellcheck!!

    • Angus said:

      From the SRU Web site at http://www.scotlandrugbyteam.org/content/view/2939/9/

      “Glasgow Warriors and Scottish Rugby today announced that Sean Lineen has been appointed to the role of head of player acquisition within the governing body.”

      As per http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/0/rugby-union/17330773

      “It’s a global role, though it’s first and foremost in Scotland and in England with the exiles.”

      “If you look at the England team at the moment and the likes of [Mouritz] Botha and [Manu] Tuilagi.”

      “If the teams with that many players are looking all around the world, then we need to be doing that as well.

      “It’s about getting a network in place. It’s all about selling Scotland and Scottish rugby to players around the world. ”

      I am not saying there are not players already in Scotland who can be developed and step up because I don’t live there

      My point is that if Sean has been given a brief to start looking overseas for Scotland qualified players then that is what he will be doing and Super 15 is as good a place as any to start

    • Angus said:

      In the light of the latest announcement about Edinburgh’s signings http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/0/rugby-union/17687882 I would rather see a Scottish qualified player signed at half back or any other position, regardless of where he is currently located

      In reply to Dropped not Retired – how is it that a player who grows up in Scotland has any more right to be selected for Scotland than one who was born overseas or moved overseas?